Four Things Your Co-Worker with Autism Wants You to Know
Working successfully with someone on the Autism spectrum just means making minor tweaks to adapt to the way they learn and process information! Disclaimer: Autism is not one size fits all. My recommendations below may or may not apply - take the time to get to know your colleague and understand how they work best! People are people, everyone is different!
1. Be direct
One thing I have learned from my brother is he takes what I say literally. If I was to say "We are in hot water if we don't finish this," he would think I was crazy. Hot water...? Instead I should say something to the effect of "We need to finish inputting all of the information into this report before we leave at 6PM." If you want something, be specific, be direct.
2. Eye Contact is a no-go
Let's just readjust that expectation now. Typically, not making eye contact is the #1 sign of inattentiveness or disrespect. Not so with your colleague who has Autism. Eye contact is difficult for those on the spectrum and while they may not be looking at you they are listening. If you insist on eye contact, he or she may spend too much effort on focusing on eye contact and not the content of what you’re saying. Eye contact or not, they hear you and are actively listening!
3. Monotone Speech ≠ Lack of Interest
Your ears typically perk up when we hear certain tones as our brains are trained to think “Oh, higher pitcher, more excitement = more important”. Not so with people who have Autism. Often times, they speak entirely in monotone – not at all due to lack of interest – it’s just how they talk. Pay attention to everything they say and give them attention you would give to anyone else, regardless of pitch.
4. Minimize Small Talk
Forming bonds with colleagues is important, but small talk is not something most (not all) people on the spectrum enjoy or excel at. If your colleague seems interested, by all means, continue!
How do you work successfully with different learning behaviors in your office? Any tips you would add? Let me know and I will add them to our list of Autism resources!